Yashica Electro 35 (from 1966) big, old-fashioned, but takes great photographs

Yashica Electro 35

The Yashica Electro 35 was one of the first old range-finder cameras I purchased. It is very big, heavy, and old-fashioned, but make no mistake, it takes great photographs. This thing is amazing! In my opinion, it is also one of the best looking of all the old 1960s and 1970s range-finders.

This is an aperture priority auto-exposure camera only. There is no manual mode. The battery powers both the meter and the shutter. Therefore without a battery and working electrics for the shutter, it is unusable. If the lights aren’t coming on it just won’t go. If the electronics aren’t working even the B setting is useless. The electronics are designed to hold the shutter open, without them working, the shutter just fires off at its fastest speed of 1/500 of a second. With many of these old cameras, you can use them in manual mode. In which case, if the meter has failed you can continue using them by taking an exposure reading with another camera, or hand-held light-meter, and then transfer it to your camera with the inoperative meter. With the Yashica Electro that isn’t possible except maybe at 1/500 of a second.

Many examples of this venerable old camera suffer from what is called the pad-of-death” problem which renders the shutter and exposure system useless. The “pad-of-death” refers to a small pad of rubber within the Electro’s innards which deteriorates over time, finally crumbling, and falling apart inside the camera. Fortunately, this problem can be fixed, either by a technician, or a competent do-it-yourself home repair-person! I managed to fix mine on my own without too much trouble. If you have it repaired by a camera tech guy it will likely cost several times more than what you might pay for the camera. Millions of these Yashica Electro cameras were made over an eleven year period. So they are usually fairly cheap to buy!

Location of the Yashica Electro 35 “pad-of-death.

The way to tell if the Yashica Electro you are looking at has the “pad-of-death” problem or not is as follows: wind the film advance lever on, let it go, then fire the shutter. Now as you slowly wind the film advance lever again you should hear a loud “clunk” before the lever has travelled even a quarter of its full distance to prime the shutter again. If you are hearing the loud ‘clunk” all is well. If the “clunk” is absent the shutter will still be primed but sadly the only speed available will be 1/500 of a second.

You can also tell if the exposure system is working correctly by setting the exposure ring to f16 in a darkened room. You will be amazed to find that the shutter will stay open for several minutes if the light level is very low before closing again on its own. With the shutter being electronic no sound is emitted from the camera at all during these long exposures until suddenly as if by magic, preceded by just a slight buzzing sound at the last second, the shutter clicks shut!

For those tempted to have a go at repairing the “pad-of-death” problem themselves I have included the following instructions: You must remove the top plate to gain access to the position of the rubber pad which, if looking at the camera from the front, is located roughly beneath the small meter window to the left of the lens. Please refer to the enclosed picture. The top plate is removed by first taking out the three small screws, followed by the advance lever, and then the rewind knob. It is all quite straightforward provided you are careful not to lose any of the small parts, have plenty of light, and a brave stomach!

I made my pad from a bicycle inner tube which is a millimetre or two in thickness. I glued it in place with a smear of contact adhesive. You could also use super glue. I fixed mine several years ago and it has worked great ever since.

One final thing about the pad-of-death problem is that the Yashica Electro is often listed on online auction sites as being in good working condition. Then when it arrives you discover that although the under and over lights are coming on the auto-exposure system isn’t working and the camera has the pad-of-death problem. You could ask the seller if long exposures are working correctly as outlined above prior to bidding, or factor in that you will likely have to do a repair job when placing your bid.

Provided the exposure system is operating correctly you will be amazed at just how well it actually does work. My pictures with the Yashica Electro 35 are always perfectly exposed. Wonderful!

There are two lights on top of the camera. When the shutter release button is partially pressed, should no lights come on, then the film will be correctly exposed and you can press the release button. However, if the yellow light comes on it indicated that the speed will be below 1/30 of a second and you should either set a wider aperture so the yellow light goes out or if a wider aperture is not available then you should use a tripod to avoid a blurred shot from camera shake. The lights can be seen from above the camera, even at waist level, as well as when looking through the view-finder.

If the red light appears it indicates the film will be overexposed because the electronic shutter cannot go above 1/500 of a second. In this case, you must either select a smaller aperture; or use a neutral density filter if the light is too bright. I have not had to resort to a neutral density filter even when using ASA 400 film on a sunny day. However if you do have to shut out some of the light with a neutral density filter to get the red light to go out in bright snow conditions for example, you must also reset the ASA dial accordingly to a lower setting because the CdS cell would not be covered by the filter as it is instead behind a separate window on the front of the camera.

Not having the CdS cell in the lens barrel, as is the case with the Canonets, for example, would also cause similar metering concerns if using a polarising filter which would have to be compensated for by two stops on the ASA dial.

The lens on the Yashica Electro 35 is a 45mm, 6 elements, Yashinon-DX f1.7. It is an outstanding lens. There is perhaps a hint of softness in the corners wide open but otherwise, it is very sharp. The lens on my example is absolutely spotless without even a hint of fungus or dust. It is as it would have been the day it left the factory! Later versions of the Yashica Electro added the word “Colour” on the front of the lens before the word “Yashica.” The use of colour film was just starting to become more widespread by 1970 however my understanding is that the lens was otherwise unchanged.

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The first Yashica Electro 35 came out in 1966 and continued to be sold until the late 1970s. Over this time there were a number of variants produced. The first models had an ASA range of 12 to 500. Later models after 1970 had an increased ASA range of 25 to 1,000 in order to take advantage of the faster films becoming available at that time. The only other change that was made to the basic camera was the addition of a hot-shoe after 1973 with the GSN model. There were several different models of the Yashica Electro, the GT and GTN that also came out in black enamel paint. These are more sort after and generally, command higher prices.

Overall the Yashica Electro 35s are great cameras capable of producing excellent, sharp, well-exposed photographs even in the hands of a complete novice. They are made from real metal; not plastic! The viewfinder is big and the bright. The yellow bright-lines are easy to see. The centre range-finder spot on my Electro was hard to see so I have increased the contrast by placing a mark with a black marker pen on the outside front of the range-finder window – an old trick that works well if required on any of these old cameras. I had to clean the range-finder glass when I first got it from memory. There is automatic parallax correction but it isn’t as obvious as it is with some old range-finder cameras.

There is an 8-second self-timer on the lens barrel. It also has a green battery check light on the back. I try to avoid using it as it is a waste of the battery. I am powering mine with a 6 volt 476A battery from Dick Smith Electronics. The original battery was, according to the manual, an Eveready E164. This was longer and fatter. I have wrapped a bit of tape around the 467A to stop it rattling around and have used a spring from the hardware store with a bit of foil on the end to take up the distance from using the short replacement battery. The original battery was 5.6v but the slight difference doesn’t seem to matter.

This particular camera had a badly faded rangefinder patch. This I have “fixed” by the “black insulation tape” method.

Specifications: Yashica Electro 35G

Type: 35mm Rangefinder Film Camera
Lens: Yashica-DX 45 mm f1.7 The lens consists of 6 elements in 4 groups. Accepts 55mm filters. Focus is from 0.8m to infinity. Marked in both feet and metres.

Viewfinder: combined with the rangefinder. Bright frame with parallax correction. Diamond shape rangefinder spot in the centre of the frame.

EE Mechanism: Built-in exposure meter with CdS cell for aperture priority automatic exposure control. You set the desired aperture on the lens ring and the camera works out the correct shutter speed automatically. There is no manual exposure mode.
Film Speeds: ASA 25 to 500 / Adjustment on top of the camera body. Later models had an ASA range of 25 – 1,000.
Battery: 5.6v PX32. The original battery was a mercury (Mallory TR164 or Eveready E164). Works with 6v PX32A or 4LR44

Shutter: Copal Leaf Shutter. Speeds range from approx. 60 seconds to 1/500 of a second plus B. Automatically sets aperture, self-cocking combined film/shutter wind, and x synchronization.

Self Timer: Yes. Runs for 8 seconds.
Flash Contact: an Accessory shoe with no direct contact plus conventional flash socket. The later Electro 35 GSN and GTN also featured a “Hot Shoe”.
Flash Auto Mechanism for other flash units: The electronic flash operation works at any speed up 1/500 of a second. There are no additional contacts on the hot-shoe. The automatic flash setting is determined by the flash unit depending on ASA of the film used.
Film Advance: Single stroke approx. 190 degrees.
Film Counter: Resets automatically.
Size: 150 x 90 x 75mm
Weight: 698g
The price in 1978 Australian dollars.
The Australian Photography Directory 1978-79 shows the new price of the Yashica MG-1 at A$135.00. By way of comparison, the same publication at that time listed the Yashica Electro 35GX at A$245.00. That means the MG-1 was almost half the price of the Yashica Electro when these cameras were still being sold new. The same edition of that publication also lists the Canon Canonet G-III at A$275.00

Photographs were taken with a Yashica Electro 35

More about the Yashica Electro 35

Matt Denton on the Yashica Electro 35 GSN

Yashica Guy with lots of great info on fixing your Yashica Electro 35. This is where I learnt how to fix the Yashica Electro 35 “pad-of-death”.

Flickr group dedicated to the Yashica Electro 35 series rangefinder cameras.

Ken Rockwell on the Yashica Electro 35 GSN


Allan Burgess

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  • Thanks for your informative article on the electro 35 Allan. Lucky enough to find a clean and working GSN in a thrift store with bonus lens shade and soft case for $20. US. Stacked 4 1.5v button cells shored up with cardboard and a spring. Seems to work OK dry firing so this one goes out to play tomorrow.

    Nice quality rangefinder for my collection.

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    • Hi Dan,
      Hi i had buy last saturday a beautiful Yashica Electro 35
      cosmetcally percfect, shutter sounds good and has no pad-of-death.
      Also diaphragms works good.
      I had built a 6V battery with 4 L44.

      No signals, no works, no led, no arrows inside viewfinder and no test leds also.
      Have any idea???? What can i do?

      Thank you so much

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  • Hi Dan,
    I've got a 6 volt 476A battery in mine. I don't know about the 4 x L44s but I'll assume you have them the correct way around with positive facing the outside, and they are charged. My apologies for mentioning the obvious! Without the battery the shutter runs at its full speed of 1/500th of a second only. Provided the battery is ok the next likely fault is a broken electrical connection or a dry solder join. The Yashica Electro 35 is an excellent camera with a great lens and the aperture priority auto-exposure does a very good job provided it is working - even on long exposures. It would probably be cheaper to purchase another camera rather than send it in to be repaired. Please let me know how you get on. I hope you can get it going.

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  • Hello again, I actually bought a Yashica Electro 35 GT off ebay recently, and it's supposed to arrive relatively soon (I hope). It should be in working condition, if not i will have to ask for advice again :)

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    • I really like my Electro 35. The lens is excellent. The exposure system is surprisingly good even in poor light with very long exposures. I also need to repair the "Pad of death" problem when I got the camera as the shutter would only fire at full speed. Let me know how you get on with it.

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  • This is a beautiful camera!
    I got an Electro 35 GT by searching on my dad´s old stuff and cleaned myself. I also changed the light seals and the POD seems to work well (at least until now). All the electronics work perfect.
    I do have a problem now... the focus ring is practically stucked! I managed to put very little drops of lighter fluid which made it move a few days, but now again, stucked.
    I couldn´t find any info on how to lubricate the ring, so I guess I should take it to a tecnician..
    Did you have that problem too?

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    • Hi Manuel, My apologies for the delayed response to your comment. I somehow missed it. It sounds like something might be stuck under the ring - a tiny bit of sand for example. Is the screw at the bottom in place? I hope you can fix it as the Yashica Electro 35 is an excellent camera. I'm amazed at how accurate the aperture priority auto-exposure is for such an old camera.

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  • Hi Allan!
    Just wondering if you have an answer for this question (i cant find any info on the web from my research). I recently got my hand on a couple of Yashica Electro 35 (originals) in very good conditon. Now the reason i am asking is because there are slight differences between the two, even for a same model. For instance, camera 1 has an ASA of 12 to 400 with a transparent cover and magnifying glass on the nob/wheel while the other one camera 2 has an ASA of 12 to 500 and no magnifying glass. Second, the Yashica logo on the front is also a bit different, camera 1 has a "box" around the "yashica" name, while camera 2 does not have a box around it. The atomic logo is the same though on both with a white background as it should on a Yashica Electro 35. Third difference is camera 1 has only the word "turn" at the metering lights (the yellow and red one), while camera 2 has the normal "slow" and "over". Fourth difference is the focal length lettering on the lenses. Camera 1 has a larger gap/distance between the numbers while the other camera 2 has more close to each other. A few more minor differences what i cen see as well is different color on the "battery check" pice that screws on the body, the one camera has it in black while the other has it in silver. From any other aspect they are the same both cameras and i love the series, i also own a GS and a GT. So about my questions, is it normal with these differences between cameras of the same model or is it unusual? One camera has also 7 digit serial while the other 8 digits. Both made in Japan.

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  • Good revue, I've got two of these beauties and really enjoy using them. PS, great NZ pics as well!

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Allan Burgess

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